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Have you ever wanted to use your writing skills to help businesses, nonprofits, and other organizations get the public's support? You may want to consider a career as a public relations specialist. And one top path to this role is an online public relations degree.
The public relations field continues to evolve in the age of digital media, and specialists remain in demand across industries. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that between 2020-30, public relations specialist employment will grow by 11%.
Read on for our rankings of the top online bachelor's degrees in public relations, plus our guide on what to expect from this degree.
Florida International University
Avg. annual net price: $7,296
Application fee: $30
Avg. annual net price: $7,492
Application fee: $30
|Montana State University Billings|
Avg. annual net price: $13,844
Application fee: Free for MT residents; $30 for non-residents
Before perusing our rankings, please take a moment to look over ZDNet's ranking methodology. Our custom algorithm weighs each program's affordability, academic merit, and reputation.
Unless otherwise indicated, data is drawn from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, College Scorecard, and each program's website.
About the program: FIU's College of Communication, Architecture, and the Arts offers a 120-credit bachelor's in public relations, advertising, and applied communications. Core coursework includes principles of advertising, global media and society, and writing fundamentals.
About the program: UF Online's catalog includes a 124-credit online bachelor's in public relations. The program holds accreditation from the Accrediting Council for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication.
About the program: MSU Billings' online bachelor's in public relations is modeled on the standards of the Public Relations Society of America's Undergraduate Education. The program offers concentrations in digital media, community public relations, and public affairs.
About the program: Point Park's 121-credit online bachelor's in public relations and advertising concludes with a capstone project. Students may present their results at the American Advertising Federation's National Student Advertising Competition.
About the program: Transfer students can bring up to 94 credits to Franklin's 124-credit bachelor's in public relations. Major electives include customer relationship management, introduction to grant-writing, and rhetoric and social influence.
An online bachelor's in public relations is a four-year degree that prepares learners for public relations specialist or low-level manager roles in advertising, marketing, and nonprofit sectors.
The degree emphasizes practical coursework — you will study strategic communication, PR ethics and law, social media, and digital PR campaigns. The curriculum usually culminates with a capstone project in which you must present your own PR campaign.
To succeed in your public relations bachelor's program, you need strong writing skills. Many programs feature major and elective courses in grant writing, advertising writing, and marketing copy.
It also helps to possess good social skills for networking with teachers and peers. Connections you build in college can benefit your future career.
Most public relations bachelor's programs focus on a few key topics: Mass communications/media, strategic/business communication, and writing.
Your program's curriculum will make you a more savvy business communicator who is prepared for work in the advertising, marketing, journalism, and nonprofit industries.
The following courses are common offerings at accredited public relations degree programs nationwide.
Writing for strategic communication
This course overviews principles of writing for public relations specialists. Students learn how to write newsletters, press releases, and other materials to industry expectations.
Ethics and problems in mass communications
This course investigates laws and ethical principles related to journalism, advertising, entertainment, and digital media. Learners leave this course to avoid possible legal issues while preparing communication materials.
Digital and online media
Students learn about digital mass communications and how to leverage them to craft successful PR campaigns. Course topics include social media platforms, content management systems, and online journalism.
Public relations campaign capstone
Many programs culminate with a capstone project for which learners must prepare a PR campaign consisting of an audit, proposal, and implementation. Students present a portfolio detailing all stages of the campaign.
The different public relations degrees and certificates are tailored to varying career goals, budgets, and timelines.
Choose the degree that best fits your long-term plans, current budget, and time constraints. For instance, if you hold a management degree and want to pivot to a public relations position, consider a graduate certificate in public relations.
Length: Six months to one year
Post-grad careers: Public relations specialist, public relations coordinator, event planner
A certificate in public relations offers a quick, affordable pathway to public relations-related work for nonprofits, businesses, and government agencies. This non-degree credential teaches learners fundamental skills in brand management, community outreach, and business communications.
Most programs consist of four or fewer courses in strategic communications, PR plan development, and crisis management. Succeeding in this program requires a student to foster strong project management and written communication skills.
Length: Two to three years
Post-grad careers: Advertising sales agent, administrative assistant, paralegal
A two-year associate in public relations degree can help you secure entry-level work in advertising and marketing. Major coursework introduces mass communication, public speaking, and legal communication. The degree can qualify you for work as a paralegal or other specialist in legal communication.
Many students use this degree as a stepping-stone to earning their bachelor's in public relations or related topics such as marketing, journalism, and advertising.
Length: Four years
Post-grad careers: Public relations specialist, marketing writer, event planner
A bachelor's in public relations prepares you for a career as a public relations specialist who writes copy, coordinate events, and designs digital PR campaigns for a variety of organizations and businesses.
The public relations bachelor's degree differs from an associate degree by emphasizing writing skills and strategic communication. Many graduates go on to work as marketing writers. To succeed in this program, you need strong written and verbal business communication skills and the ability to self-motivate effectively.
Length: Two to four years
Post-grad careers: Public relations director, marketing director, marketing, advertising, and promotions manager
A public relations master's can help a PR specialist progress to leadership roles in advertising, public relations, and marketing-related management. With enough experience, graduates may become executives or departmental directors. Some programs may require a certain number of years' work experience from applicants.
You can boost your chances of getting a job post-degree by pursuing a specialization. Many programs may also allow you to complete an internship.
Length: Three to five years
Post-grad careers: Postsecondary educator, nonprofit executive director, dean
A doctorate in public relations is a terminal degree tailored to future educators, C-level managers at nonprofits, and research scientists interested in consumer behavior and media studies.
During the typical public relations doctoral program, learners study advanced public relations concepts and an area of specialization, such as political communication, media organizations, and propaganda.
To complete a dissertation based on their area of specialization, students take coursework in research methods and statistical analysis.
If you'd like to pursue a degree in public relations, remember its broad applicability beyond public relations work. You could work in journalism, advertising, or management with a bachelor's in public relations.
A public relations degree will refine your communication skills, which are in demand in many industries.
Consult your local college or university's career center or community resources such as local nonprofits for more information on public relations degrees.